Christians

Minimizing God: Missing The Real Jesus

 

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There is something very dangerous happening within the church today. A hazardous mistake that many of us are prone to make. Initially I was going to call this a dangerous trend, but in actuality this has been happening amongst God’s people ever since God has had a people. So what am I talking about? (The title of this post should give you a hint.)

Minimizing God.

When I speak of minimizing God, I’m not speaking in this case about our mistaken priorities, and even idolatry. Surely this too is a problem, and what I am about to discuss could definitely lead us further into this deadly trap. But for now, what I mean by the phrase “minimizing God” is the way in which we all tend to take one attribute of God’s character and elevate it above every other attribute.

For instance, there are some Christians who want to discuss nothing but God’s mercy. Others seem to speak of nothing but the judgment of God. Others say God is a God of love, and say they could never serve a God of wrath. But what does the Bible say? Is God loving, or is he wrathful? Is God a God of mercy, or is he a God of judgment? Well, what if I were to tell you the answer is yes?

God is all of these. God is Love. God is merciful. But God also judges, and God also pours out his wrath. Our God is just that big. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the Scriptures.

God of mercy:

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespases, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved…” Ephesians 2:4-5

God of judgment:

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” 2 Corinthians 5:10

God of wrath:

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” John 3:36

God of love:

“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”

Within God, we see all of these attributes. God is a God of love, a God of wrath, a God of judgment, and a God of mercy. God exhibits all of these attributes, and does so perfectly. And now I want to take it a step further…

Some of you probably noticed I only quoted from the New Testament. I did this intentionally. I have heard some people say, even some people who call themselves Christians things like, “The God of the New Testament is different from the God of the Old Testament.” Or, “Well, God is full of wrath in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament we just see grace.”

I’m not going to spend a lot of time here, simply because this is ridiculous. The Bible says time and time again that God doesn’t change. The God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament. This being true, we have to keep in mind that Jesus Himself was and is God, and therefore exhibits all of these attributes of God in himself. As Colossians 1:15 says, “He is the image of the invisible God…” And Hebrews 1:3, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature…”

So many times people act as if Jesus was some feel good hippie who never judged a soul, or never called out the sin he saw in others. But Jesus is the one who stormed into the temple swinging a whip and flipping tables.(John 2:15) Jesus is the one who said to the woman caught in adultery, “Go and sin no more.”(John 8:11) Jesus is the one who will judge the sin of the world, the living and the dead.(Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Timothy 4:1) So, just as God exhibits mercy and judgment, love and wrath…So too does Jesus. You can’t separate any of these divine attributes from who they are. You can’t elevate one attribute above the other. When you do, you are minimizing who God is in his very person. You are making the God of the universe, who was revealed to us perfectly in the person of Jesus Christ, smaller than he really is. This is extremely dangerous.

We must worship the God of the Bible. Not the God of our own minds. All of us are in danger of falling into this trap. I would dare say, all of us have fallen into this trap at one time or another. Maybe we are there now. This is why it is so important for us to continually study the Scriptures and seek the face of God in prayer. This is why we must be continually seeking to know Christ and seeking to abide in Him and His Word.

God revealed to us through Christ is not a one dimensional God. He is a beautiful multifaceted diamond, that grows more and more beautiful at every angle.

 

 

 

 

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A quick rant(and a thought) regarding Amendment One

Christians believe ‘marriage’ is a religious institution…Christians believe marriage was created and defined by God. If this is true, then it should look like God wanted it to look. To say that people who are Christians should not vote according to their religious beliefs is unfair. You may disagree with those beliefs…but you can’t tell them to leave them at home when they go into a voting booth. Christians are to live and vote according to their biblical convictions. We may disagree with what the Bible says, but we can’t deny what it says.

That being said, I was not really supportive of this amendment. Mainly because I didn’t think it changed things one way or the other…which is why I think it should have been left off the ballot. It is also why I think people should chill the heck out…because when they woke up today, absolutely nothing is different. Even the issue of healthcare and protection against victims of domestic violence has not changed, nor will it. This was simply a scare tactic used by those who wanted this amendment voted down.

Like I said though, I wasn’t supportive of this amendment…and I am a Christian. I do believe marriage is a religious institution and is between 1 man and 1 woman….My question is though- Is this an issue to be decided by the government? Perhaps we should simply take ‘marriage’ out of the public/political discussion…Perhaps we should allow for civil unions across the board for all consenting adults. Give ‘marriage’ to the churches and allow church bodies to bless and recognize ‘marriage’ as their convictions may see fit.

Just a thought.

I think Keller just nailed me…

I’m currently reading Timothy Kellers, “Counterfeit Gods.” Wonderful, convicting, and challenging book. I was reading tonight and the following passages really stuck out to me as he began discussing the idols that many Christians and Christian communities have set up, and the damage it has and is doing. You can find it on pages 131-133 in the book.

“An idol is something that we look to for things that only God can give. Idolatry functions widely inside religious communities when doctrinal truth is elevated to the position of a false god. This occurs when people rely on the rightness of their doctrine for their standing with God rather than on God himself and his grace. It is a subtle but deadly mistake. The sign that you have slipped into this form of self-justification is that you become what the book of Proverbs calls a “scoffer.” Scoffers always show contempt and disdain for opponents rather than graciousness. This is a sign that they do not see themselves as sinners saved by grace. Instead, their trust in the rightness of their views makes them feel superior…

Wow, I think Keller nailed me. I like to think I don’t have this issue, but when I search myself and am really honest with myself, there are many times that the above passage here sums me up quite well. Forgive me Lord, I am indeed a sinner, in need of Your grace.

“…the Enlightenment abandoned religious orthodoxy and put in God’s place things like the American system or individual self-fulfillment. The results have not been good. Putting Nation in place of God leads to cultural imperialism, and putting Self in the place of God leads to many of the dysfunctional dynamics we have discussed throughout this book. Why did our culture largely abandon God as its hope? I believe it was because our religious communities have been and continue to be filled with these false gods. Making an idol out of doctrinal accuracy, ministry success, or moral rectitude leads to constant internal conflict, arrogance and self-righteousness, and oppression of those whose views differ. These toxic effects of religious idolatry have led to widespread disaffection with religion in general and Christianity in particular. Thinking we have tried God, we have turned to other Hope, with devastating consequences.”

Again, I think Keller nailed me, and many people I know. Certainly a need for much repentance within the Church…

I encourage everyone, especially Christian leaders to go out and get this book.

Living in Awe of God…

My Pastor said a great line in church this past week. He told the visitors in our church that his hope for them, is that they would see a people in awe of God, and that they would themselves experience that in our church. He said if they didn’t have that experience in our church, he hopes they would find a church in which they would. That is our goal as a church, to show the world a people that are in absolute awe of God. That is something you don’t see so much in the Church today. It is a sad reality.

A couple of passages of Scripture come to mind for me, in speaking of being in awe of God. First you have John, the author of Revelation who gives an amazingly detailed description of the throne of God, and the “one seated on the throne”. (Revelation 4) I love his description, because He uses word pictures of jewels, gold, rainbows, fire, crystal, thunder and lightning to try to paint us a picture of what He was seeing. He told us about strange creatures that even with his detailed descriptions are hard for us to imagine. I think as hard as he tried to give us an accurate description…he still fell short. When reading Revelation 4, you get a sense of wonder, and amazement, that the author must have felt.

In Isaiah 6:1-7, you have another description of the throne of God. He also describes creatures that are hard to imagine, and tells us that the “house” in which he was in was “filled with smoke”. Isaiah also was filled with awe…look at his words as he was before the throne of God, “Woe is me! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Another passage that comes to mind for me is the transfiguration in Matthew 17. When Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James, and John, Matthew tells us that, “his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.” Peter was so taken aback, and didn’t know what to say. He knew he had seen something special, and wanted to set up tents to mark the occasion. Then in Matthew 17:5-6, we read that a “bright cloud overshadowed them” and that God spoke out of the cloud. The three disciples were so afraid they fell on their faces. Verse 6 tells us that they were “terrified”.

The other two passages that come to mind for me are both in Exodus. In Exodus 33:18-23. Moses asked God to see His “glory”. God partially grants his request by placing Moses in the cleft of a rock, and covering his face until He has passed by him, and allows Moses to see His back. God doesn’t allow Moses to see His face, because the glory of the Lord’s face is too much for him to handle, as He tells Moses in verse 20 that “man shall not see me and live”.

The next Passage is in Exodus 34:29. After Moses has been on Mount Sinai with God, the Scriptures tell us that the “skin of his face shone”. After seeing this, the people were afraid to go near Moses. Not only were the people in awe of God, they were in awe of His glory, that was now in some way upon Moses, and in their midst.

If we are to be a people that truly love God, and truly worship Him, we must be a people that are in absolute awe of Him. We must see Him for who He is, and fall on our faces before Him. If we have truly been in His presence, and have experienced His glory, then it is going to show in us, the way it showed on the face of Moses. People will see that, some people might even fear it. It is my prayer though that people will want to experience it for themselves. That people will want to come into the presence of God, so that they too can experience His glory. May our church, your church, your life, and my life be one in which we can all help people experience God for themselves. May we be a People that doesn’t forget who the God we serve is. May we be a People always, living in awe of God. May that be our prayer…

Reformed Baptist?

Recently I mentioned a book that I have been reading, “A Reformed Baptist Manifesto”, which inspired the question by some, “What is a Reformed Baptist?” Below is my response in an attempt to sum it up very briefly.

In an effort to try to be brief, a “Reformed Baptist” is basically someone who holds to the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith. Someone who is reformed in their theology generally identifies with the early reformers of the Church, such as, Luther, Calvin, Knox, etc. Many people debate whether or not someone can be both Reformed and Baptist, as there are significant differences in the theology of the two groups, such as mode of Baptism, subjects of Baptism, and what exactly Baptism symbolizes, etc.

I personally think the debate on whether or not someone can be both Reformed and Baptist is silly, and frankly don’t think it matters.

I more than likely fall into the category, as I do identify with the Reformers. They were right on so many levels. The Church was in dire need of being reformed. They took the church back to Biblical Christianity, a belief in the sovereignty of God, Salvation by grace alone through faith alone, and the authority of the Bible…

I also believe though many of the reformers got it wrong, in relation to the issue of baptism. I believe that historically the Baptists have been right in that area. As well as who exactly the New Covenant is for. Again though, I think this is an issue that has been made a much bigger deal than it should be, and has caused too much division in the church. That is why I am glad to be in a church (Crossmark Church) now that allows for the difference of opinion on which stance on baptism and the New Covenant is correct. We have strong opinions, but ultimately, this isn’t an issue that determines whether or not one is a Christian, and should not divide.

By the way, the book I’m reading, is basically a defense of the Reformed Baptist position, in contrast to the other doctrinal stances within the church. For those of you who are interested, the book again is called, “A Reformed Baptist Manifesto” by Samuel Waldron and Richard C. Barcellos.

Blessings…